rose.jpgWhich phrase resonates more with you? Capitalism? Or free enterprise? Protectionism? Or isolationism?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (a private organization) is about to launch a multiyear, up to $100 million media campaign to “remind Americans of the virtues of a free market and free trade.” To make sure that their message has the intended effect, the Chamber, which says it represents 3 million organizations and businesses, hired an outfit out of New York called Presentation Testing to run focus groups.

Presentation Testing’s schtick is to give audiences handheld meters with dials from 0 to 100, which the audience members can twist back and forth to give instant feedback on their real-time reaction to a presentation. The data is then sliced and diced according to age, sex, political orientation, education, etc.

Turns out, at least according to Presentation Testing, that people associated capitalism with “greed” and the “powerful dominating the vulnerable.” (Gee, given Wall Street’s pummeling of Main Street of late, I wonder why? They play with our money, we pay? Heads they get bonuses, tails we get a recession? With no clawbacks for phantom profits?) But fortunately for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, free enterprise still has positive connotations, so the media campaign, timed for October 2009, will be titled “Campaign for a Free Enterprise.”

Protectionism (tariffs vs. free trade) is associated in people’s minds with a sense of “being protected” so the word “isolationism” may be used in lieu of protectionism.

The take-home value? Become more aware of how different words, even ones that have the same ultimate meaning, can have different associations in your mind. Be conscious of when you are being influenced and when it passes over into manipulation.

Closing Quote: JULIET:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

A story, much favored by tour guides, and as such highly suspect, is that in this line Shakespeare was also making a joke at the expense of the Rose Theatre. The Rose was a local rival to his Globe Theatre and is reputed to have had less than effective sanitary arrangements. The story goes that this was a coy joke about the smell. This certainly has the whiff of folk etymology about it, but it might just be true.